To Promote or Not to Promote: The Pros and Cons of Facebook Advertising

Authors are always doing what they can to get their books in front of more people. But the real goal should be to get your book seen by the most people in your target audience. Number of eyes doesn’t mean anything if they are not likely to turn into sales.

That’s where targeted Facebook ads come into play. Advertising on social media is an extremely effective strategy for promoting your book or building up your social media accounts. As always with promotion strategies, there are pros and cons to Facebook advertising.

The Pros

  1. Targeting a Specific Audience: Blanket advertising is not always the best strategy when trying to get more people to purchase your book. You want there to be a larger click through rate on your ad, which is more prone to happen if the audience seeing the ad is interested. By using the data on Facebook, you can target people based on their interests, gender, age, and location. You can always change these parameters as well, depending on how well an ad is performing.
  2. Number of Users: You can reach so many people on Facebook. There are currently 2.7 billion users on the platform, so even with targeting you are reaching a wider audience than you would on other platforms.
  3. Different Ad Options: There are multiple types of ads that you can run depending on your goal. The ads fall under three different categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. You can choose what you’re wanting to accomplish (more traffic to a website, more page likes, more sales, more brand awareness, etc.) and Facebook will run an ad tailored to that goal.
  4. Comparison Opportunities: Facebook allows you to run multiple ads at a time, which allows you to monitor which ads are performing better than others. They allow you to set up an ad with an A/B Test which means the same ad runs with two different ad sets (different target demographics/psychographics) so you can see which audience is responding more. This allows an efficient way to monitor who you should be targeting and can save you money by only spending money on the ad that is giving you the most engagement.
  5. Easy to Change: Facebook ads are also easy to tweak if needed. You can go in and change the target audience at any time. You aren’t locked in to the ad set you originally create. Having the ability to change demographics as well as the image/copy at any time is helpful in making sure you are getting the best results possible.

The Cons

  1. Costs: While you can set up a Facebook ad with any size budget, the bigger the budget the better an ad will perform. This doesn’t mean that your $5/day ad won’t generate more engagement, but if you want substantial numbers, it could become expensive. Also, if your targeting is off, it can be a lot of cost for not enough return.
  2. Limitations to Facebook: While you are reaching a wide amount of people, it is only Facebook users that you are reaching and a lot of people who have accounts have started to move on to other, more progressive social platforms. This fact could lead to lower numbers of engagement on your ads. But again, a lower percentage of 2.7 billion, is still a pretty large number.
  3. Diminished Organic Views: Only a small percentage of your customers will stumble onto your post organically since the Facebook algorithm limits brands visibility, so to reach more people you may have to boost your posts.

Marketing your book can definitely be overwhelming, and understanding your options is key. It is important to take all of these things into consideration before creating an ad, however the pros usually outweigh the cons when it comes to advertising your book or your brand as an author on Facebook.

How to make the most of the 2020 SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show

Books Forward is so excited for the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show starting Sept. 21 — check out our exhibitor booth here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/! This year’s trade show is going to look a little different from previous years: for the first time ever, SIBA and NAIBA have partnered up to host a virtual, five-day event. We can’t wait to join our favorite indie booksellers, publishers, and authors online for this one-of-a-kind experience — and we also know that new opportunities can create questions for our authors. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the trade show to help authors navigate this year’s especially unique event with ease!

What does the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show look like?
Held Sept. 21-25, the trade show will consist of a series of Zoom events taking place across four different channels. It’s a joint event hosted between SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Association) and NAIBA (the New Atlantic Booksellers Association), united under the name New Voices New Rooms. Booksellers will be eyeing new and upcoming book releases!

What does this year’s schedule look like?
You can find the trade show schedule here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/schedule/. It’s divided into four tracks: Education (panels, roundtables, and more for booksellers), Author Events, Publisher Events, and Networking. It’s interactive and searchable; you can add all events, or just individual events, to your personal calendar; you can subscribe to it; and you can easily share it on social media. You’ll also find all of the participating publishers tagged — just click on the publisher’s name to see all of the events that publisher is participating in.

This schedule is pretty extensive! How will I know what’s happening each day?
Not only is the schedule broken up by day, but the New Voices New Rooms blog will also have a rundown of each day’s events, and is a great hub for finding out info about the show: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/nvnr-news/. Their newsletter will also recap daily sessions and events, as will the SIBA and NAIBA newsletters, respectively.

How many people can attend the online trade show?
There is no attendance cap; there are more than 500 booksellers and other industry attendees registered right now.

Can I still arrange to be featured in an author event?
The Author Events schedule is full, but there are still some advertising options available to reach attendees via the email newsletter or trade show website, which is sure to have high traffic during that week! Find more info here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/sponsors/.

Do I have to register?
Anyone who is participating in the trade show (including exhibitors) or who wants to attend must register; you can do so here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/registration/. Registering gets you onto the list of people allowed into the Zoom rooms/events.

If my publisher/editor/representative got me scheduled to participate in a trade show author event, do I still have to register?
Anyone who is attending or participating in the trade show must be registered for the event; this is how you get on to the list of Zoom room attendees. However, it’s possible that SIBA/NAIBA registered you on behalf of your publisher/editor/representative; it’s best to check with your participating organization to make sure.

I am, or my publisher/representative is, participating in the trade show. How will ARCs/galleys/review copies of my book be available?
If an author is featured at an event, New Voices New Rooms will send a Google form to all session participants at the end of the event to incentivize people to sign up for copies; publishers will then receive a list with all the book requests. Exhibitors can also feature galley request forms on their pages in the Virtual Exhibitor Hall!

What is the Virtual Exhibitor Hall?
While we may miss the crowded and bustling exhibitor halls of previous years, New Voices New Rooms has created a really excellent Virtual Hall for Exhibitors, which you can peruse here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/virtual-exhibit-hall/. When you hover your cursor over each logo, the digital placard flips over to reveal a sentence or two about that exhibitor. Click on the logo to “enter” the exhibitor’s virtual booth, where you can learn more about their offerings and services, and even enter an online raffle! There’s also a searchable directory of exhibitors in the dropdown menu between the sponsor logos and exhibitor logos.

How do I know which booksellers are in attendance?
New Voices New Rooms has created a pretty awesome searchable list of all registered booksellers who will be in attendance — check it out here! https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/booksellers/

Will I be tagged on social media?
New Voices New Rooms is creating graphics and videos that can be shared on social media by publishers and exhibitors; each piece of content will include a list of participating authors’ social media handles so they can be easily tagged online. This is perfect for promoting and sharing specific authors and events!

Books Forward Welcomes SIBA / NAIBA Attendees to New Orleans

Bienvenue to all SIBA / NAIBA indie booksellers and other lovers of literature! At Books Forward, we are passionate about elevating important messages and stories from diverse voices, as well as championing independent bookstores. And we are so excited to extend our Southern hospitality to the attendees of 2020’s joint SIBA / NAIBA tradeshow! Welcome, y’all!

If you want to discover some incredible new authors, enjoy some fun NOLA swag, or receive a free consultation about boosting your social media presence, check out what we have in store for you this year. Connect with us during the conference by participating in a few of our offerings below: 

Visit our virtual booth in the exhibitor’s hall: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/ 

Check out our booth and come meet the amazing Southern authors and books we’re representing this year! You may request galleys for any of our titles.

Ask us for a free social media consultation 

Are you a bookseller looking to boost your social media presence? Our digital marketing team will review your social media accounts and offer constructive feedback and advice for increasing your online engagement, hosting virtual events and bringing more patrons to your online store! Email us at info@booksforward.com to schedule your consult.

You may also be interested in scheduling some of our authors and leading experts for free (live or pre-recorded) virtual learning opportunities.

Learn New Orleans lingo 

Think you know how to say “Tchefuncte,” “Vieux Carre,” “Ouachita” and “Burgundy?” Think again! Let our New Orleans team teach you how to pronounce the trickier words you’ll see while virtually visiting the Big Easy, and we’ll have you speaking like a local in no time. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Pick up some fun swag 

We have a present for you! Check your conference box to snag your grab bag of NOLA flavor, including a snazzy sticker and (of course) a fun Mardi Gras bead courtesy of Books Forward! 

Meet our authors face-to-face

Our authors want to say a big “thank you!” to indies and share some cool news with you via video! Check out Big Freedia’s (New Orleans’ one and only Queen Diva and Bounce music icon) shout-out to indie booksellers, bestselling author Rea Frey talking about the importance of indie bookstores, bestselling author Jenny Milchman (known for what Shelf Awareness called the “World’s Longest Bookstore Tour”) reading from her newest thriller, and Washington Post journalist and Jeff Goldblum biographer Travis Andrews sharing some fascinating facts about “Jurassic Jeff”.

Join us on social media 

Be the first to enter our giveaways (often for indie bookstore gift cards, but also for other literary themed gifts!), get tagged in our shout-outs, chat with us online, and see our posts, streams, and stories during the tradeshow and beyond! Follow us on social media by clicking the links below: 

A sincere THANK YOU for all you do for the literary community. We’re sending a big virtual hug your way!

“Help Me Help You!” Tips for your family and friends who want to help your writing career

So many authors are reluctant to ask their family, friends and assorted contacts for help when they are promoting their book, but I always tell them to think of it from the opposite perspective. Wouldn’t you want to support a friend or loved one who had a new book coming out?

The thing is, most people don’t know exactly how to show that support, and they just need a little nudge in the right direction. So we put together a handy guide you can pass along when someone asks, “How can I help?”

Dear friends and family, here’s how you can help the authors in your life:

  1. Preorder a copy of their book — and not just for yourselves, but for others. Everybody’s getting a copy for Christmas! This is the most tangible way to help. For those who don’t have the financial means to order several books, there are a lot of other things that can help.
  2. Talk about the book on social media. Include links to the author’s website so people can order copies for themselves. Follow the author on their social media pages, and share their posts as appropriate to help drum up excitement.
  3. Rate and review the book on all platforms possible. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before a book’s publication date, but Goodreads and other sites do. These ratings can be a deciding factor for whether someone buys the book or not. Seeing even just a handful of positive reviews can be a big incentive to check it out, so leaving a 5-star rating and review is an easy way to have a critical impact.
  4. Add the book to Goodreads lists to boost its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power. When someone searches for books about specific topics — for example, “books about teenage witches” — Goodreads lists are often among the first results to pop up. By adding the book to several topical/thematic Goodreads lists and asking others to vote on it, you are making it more visible to its targeted readers.
  5. Suggest it as a book club pick to any groups you’re involved with who may enjoy it. The author may even be able to do a virtual Q&A with book clubs if that’s something you’d be interested in.
  6. Request that your local library carry the book. Check to see if the book is available at your library. If it’s not, check online to see if they have a form on their website where you can request that they carry the book. Many libraries have request forms specifically for this purpose (and if yours does not have an online form, a conversation with the librarian is a good place to start!). If the library chooses to carry the book, they will purchase a copy (another sale for the author!), and the book will be able to reach a new audience of readers who may not hear about it otherwise.
  7. Talk to your local booksellers and see if they know about the book. If not, give them an elevator pitch! Their recommendations are invaluable, so even putting the book on their radar can be helpful.
  8. And of course, spread the word! Word of mouth is still so important. Talk about the book to your friends, your coworkers, in your personal and professional circles, anywhere you can. Being an advocate for the author in your life is truly a gift — and you may help your other friends and connections discover a great new read!

Prepare for back to school with books

15 bookstagrammers to follow for children’s book recommendations, and 15 picture book recommendations

Whether the kids are heading back to school or learning from home, August always brings back fond memories of the smell of sharpened pencils, and a sense of new adventures and opportunities. One of the ways I learned best as a kid was through reading, so we’ve compiled a list of bookstagrammers who always have amazing new kids’ books to recommend! 

  1. Michelle (@the.book.report) is a mother of six who has great book recommendations for every age. She also shares fun, easy recipes to keep everyone fed and happy! 
  2. Megan (@ihaveabook4that) champions getting diverse books into schools, and is hosting an #augustkidlitchallenge encouraging people to share their favorite children’s books.
  3. Rosemary (@librarymombooks) is a former school librarian who curates fabulous lists that ensure you’ll be able to find a book your child will love. 
  4. Rosie (@diverse_kids_books) recommends books about people from all backgrounds and life experiences with the goal that every child will see themselves represented, and to spread inclusivity and kindness.
  5. Sarah (@picturebooksblogger) is a picture book expert. The photos of the book covers really pop in her feed–swipe to see more details from each book!
  6. Lauren (@happily.ever.elephants) shares books of course, but also quotes and lists that are fun and so helpful.
  7. Kelly (@deliahandtilly)  has a feed full of rainbows and smiles, and shares some amazing books and tips on home education.
  8. Charnaie (@hereweread) aims to help adults make the most out of their kids’ reading time, and promotes inclusive and beautiful books. 
  9. Shruthi (@thebookprivy) writes thoughtful captions that will inspire parents to talk with their kids about the books that they’re reading.
  10. Vera (@thetututeacher) is a kindergarten teacher who has tons of online resources for kids of all ages, and book recommendations to fit any need. 
  11. Nate (@mr_lyon_4th) led a Here and Queer educator series this summer to create space for LGBTQ+ storytelling, provide actionable steps for inclusion, and create space for queer storytelling. And of course, the book recs are top notch.
  12. Evie Sophia (@evieslearninglibrary) encourages literacy and love of reading by sharing creative activities and books for all different ages.
  13. Malorie (@rhetty.set.rea) has a colorful feed full of bright books that are sure to entertain kiddos.
  14. Lauren (@picturebookplaydate) manages to find the perfect background for each book she’s recommending to make them even more tempting! 
  15. Anna (@whatshouldireadtomykid) is a K-12 literacy specialist and has two young kids, which means her book recommendations come from experience!

And of course, I have LOTS of recommendations! Being a mom to a 3.5 year old means we are always on the lookout for fun new books. Here are some of our favorite picture books:

  1. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Thomas Knight: No kids book has ever made me laugh as hard as this one. In this story, a little girl makes a persuasive argument to be able to sleep in her parents’ bed. 
  2. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Steve Lewis: An updated version of the  old-fashioned tale of the knight rescuing the princess.
  3. Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn: For anyone who has been told they can’t succeed because they’re too much or not enough.
  4. Because by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren: A cool way to teach kids how a small incident (a little girl’s uncle gets sick, so she gets to go to the symphony) can have long-term effects (she becomes a composer).
  5. Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley: A gentle lesson dismantling down toxic masculinity.
  6. Windows by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale: Relying mostly on illustrations, this book offers a great view on exploring the worlds within our own neighborhoods.
  7. The Little Red Stroller by Joshua Furst and Katy Wu: A great story sharing many versions of what different families look like.
  8. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Who hasn’t wanted to be a mermaid? Julián’s grandmother encourages him to embrace and celebrate his identity.
  9. Over There by Steve Pilcher: Beautiful illustrations from the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase tell the tale of a little shrew who wondered if he might find something better outside his comfort zone.
  10. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees: Everyone makes fun of Gerald’s dancing, but a little cricket teaches him to find his own rhythm and joy. 
  11. Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival: When Norman sprouts wings, he tries to keep them hidden, but keeping a huge secret weighs on him. 
  12. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth: The kids in a family each learn a small lesson from a panda who is well versed in Zen tales.
  13. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison: An empowering ode to a young Black girl’s hair, and the love her father has for her. 
  14. Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: A spunky little girl finds adventure with her trusty dog sidekick in their own backyard.

A Big Guy Took My Ball (or really any Elephant and Piggie story) by Mo Willems: A smart lesson about including people, even if they’re different from you — but they are all wonderful!

Tips for Virtual Author Events

Want to feel terrible about yourself? Plan an event at a bookstore for your book, show up to the store in your fancy writer’s outfit, and quickly realize that nobody is there to see you except for the bookstore owner and a bored staff member the owner forces to watch your reading.

This has happened to every writer I know and, while it makes for a ruefully amusing story years later in your career, these lackluster events are terribly inconvenient for yourself and the bookstore – particularly if the store ordered copies of your book, and is dedicating an evening to you in place of someone who would have drawn a better crowd.

Of course, now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, writers need ways to promote their books outside of in-person events. For years, I’ve run a reading series in D.C. called “Noir at the Bar,” an event where 8-9 crime fiction writers take turns reading stories at a bar (for more about the series, including its national origins, check out this article in CrimeReads). I was recently inspired by my friend Alex Segura, who runs the Queens NY Noirs at the Bar, to move my series online and re-name it. It’s now called “D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires,” and we’ve had wonderful success since it debuted in April – media coverage, attendance in the hundreds, and the series has garnered a devoted following.

In the process, I’ve learned some important thing about putting together a virtual event:

Make It Bigger Than You

You might be tempted, particularly if you’re launching a new book this year, to have an event solely focused on your work. I get that. And it makes sense, particularly if you already have a following. If you don’t, then make sure you have a “draw” for your event. For example, ask a better-known author to join you in conversation. Or, if your book has a natural fit with an organization, reach out to them and ask if they have a virtual series you can be part of (you should already know this, to be honest, and really should be asking if you can take part in an existing series). Make sure there’s a reason people will tune in…people outside of your own circle of fans, friends, and family. 

Organizations and event planners have been scrambling these past few months for ways to keep their membership engaged. Make your event an enticing fit for them, and they’ll be excited to include and promote you.

Know the Software

Likely, everyone reading this has used Zoom for online meetings and gatherings, and it’s a terrific platform. But it’s not the only one. For “D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires,” I use Crowdcast, a site particularly suited for readings where one presenter after another takes the stage. And even though, like Zoom, the site is fairly intuitive, I still take pains to make sure that every writer’s microphone and web cam are working prior to an event.

There are always going to be glitches. Make sure you have a backup plan, and expect to be nimble. Viewers expect glitches, but there is a definite shortage of patience if these problems persist. It’s much easier, after all, to click off a site than it is to walk out of a reading.

Dare to Flair

There’s nothing more boring than an author reading their work. Most writers are famously introverted and not exactly gifted presenters. The last thing anyone wants is to go to a reading where someone is staring down at a book and muttering for an hour. BORING.

Add something fun to your event. For this D.C. series, I have musical interludes where a local jazz star (the fantastic Sara Jones) sings noir-themed songs. And a local mixologist, Chantal Tseng, puts together a custom cocktail for each event (based off one of the books) and gives a quick demonstration of how to make it. Sara and Chantal have become the stars of the series, and an added element viewers greatly look forward to. And both women have suffered the sudden halt of their livelihoods – cancelled live events and closed bars. It’s nice to do something where they have the chance to resume their craft.

Local Media Wants to Know

I mentioned that event organizers have been scrambling for content to share with their members; the same is true with your local media, especially reporters who cover local events. Nothing is happening anywhere and, if you have an interesting angle for your event, you have a wonderful chance to get some attention for it. The D.C. Virtual N@B series has received coverage from DCist, the Washington Post, and NPR – media that, traditionally, had been impossible for me to attract to the in-person events.

Work with a Bookstore

Even in good times, independent bookstores have it tough, and the current economy is leveling local businesses. Every event in my reading series is in support of a local DC/MD/VA bookstore, and the bookstores have responded warmly to this effort, with promotions and dedicated event pages. My region, in particular, is fortunate to have a strong bookstore presence, one that is enthusiastically supportive of its local writers, and this is an opportunity to do something for them.

And it doesn’t hurt, of course, for these local bookstores to be familiar with your name, and to consider you an instrumental part of the community.

You’re getting something out of this, to be sure, but you’re doing something for others at the same time. You’re bringing a sense of distraction and escape to people who desperately need it. Never forget that. It’ll give your event a sense of purpose and determination viewers will recognize and appreciate.

To learn more about D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires series, visit https://eaymarwrites.com/noirbar/. To learn more about E.A. Aymar and his upcoming novel, They’re Gone, written under his pseudonym E.A. Barres, visit https://eaymarwrites.com/novels/theyre-gone/.

16 books we’re reading in summer 2020

Summer is in full swing, and that means summer reading is too! Whether you’re searching for a hot new release (may we suggest a few of our fantastic Books Forward authors below!), or you’re craving a fresh dip into a hit from summers-past, we’ve got you covered! Here’s what we’re reading in summer 2020: 

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist 

Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner (Fiction)

What mom doesn’t need a quick trip to Vegas right now? Brandy’s book is the perfect pandemic read for moms like me who were a little overwhelmed by their families BEFORE they were quarantined with them. Add in a therapist with her own issues, and a Thelma-and-Louise-style trip and you get a great summer read that’s a dose of fun with some deeper themes.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Fantasy) 

To me, a book set by the ocean will always be a perfect summer read. I think everyone can identify with the themes of belonging in this book, and the fantasy elements add so much fun to the mix. Linus Baker is a simple man living a simple life as a case worker who checks on magical children living in orphanages. But when he gets sent on a very secret mission to an island, the inhabitants and their secrets change everything for him. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Young Adult)

For some reason, I read a lot of YA books during the summer months, and Felix has been a standout for me so far. I read the library book in a day and immediately ordered my own copy because I loved it with my whole heart. Felix is a trans teen attending a prestigious art school and struggling with his identity on top of the typical teen complications. He also wants desperately to fall in love, but when he starts to receive harassment — both in real life and online — he worries he’ll never truly be accepted for himself.  

Angelle Barbazon, Lead Publicist 

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman (Thriller, releasing Aug. 18)

Every time Jenny Milchman releases a new book, it shoots straight to the top of my reading list, and The Second Mother is no exception! Exploring themes of isolation and survival, this summer thriller follows a schoolteacher who attempts to outrun her past by accepting a job on a remote island off the coast of Maine, only to discover her new community isn’t quite as safe and welcoming as it seems. Jenny Milchman proves once again that she’s a master of suspense!

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn (Historical Nonfiction)

I’m looking forward to digging through my TBR pile this summer and finally cracking open a few books that I’ve been meaning to read for years. First up is Eleanor and Hick, which I randomly discovered sitting in a Little Free Library last summer, and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since. The book follows the love affair between the ever-fascinating Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist who was assigned to cover the First Lady. This is a piece of history I never heard about, so I was automatically drawn to their story, and I can’t wait to read more.

Hunting Teddy Roosevelt by James A. Ross (Historical Fiction, releasing July 31)

If you can’t travel this summer because of the coronavirus, let James A. Ross whisk you away to the savannahs, jungles and deserts of Africa in “Hunting Teddy Roosevelt.” This historical fiction novel is based on an obscure true story about an assassination attempt during Roosevelt’s post-presidency hunting expedition that’s not found in most history books. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re looking for a book brimming for larger-than-life characters, an exotic locale and thoughtful writing, pick this one up!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge (Thriller)

Time to let y’all in on a little secret: I took martial arts for about eight years when I was growing up — it was seriously a huge part of my life. So reading about a tough and cunning modern-day Ninja like Lily Wong not only took me back to my glory days of summer karate tournaments, it also kept me on the edge of my seat and reminded me how awesome it is to read about fierce women fighting for justice. I’m excited book 2 in the series, The Ninja’s Blade, is out Sept.1 so Lily’s story can continue!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction, releasing Sept. 1)

After a million friends telling me to, I finally read Homegoing this year by Gyasi, and I hate myself for waiting so long — it’s hands down one of my favorite books of the past five years. So I’m excited to bookend my summer with her newest, Transcendent Kingdom. Following a Ghanian family of immigrants living in Alabama, the novel touches on themes of faith, science, love and religion, all wrapped up in Gyasi’s exquisite prose. I’m going to be anxiously waiting by my mailbox for this one to arrive. 

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Nonfiction, Memoir)

The most visceral, exhilarating, and painful short stories I’ve ever read can be found within Machado’s 2017 collection, Her Body and Other Parties. I’m overjoyed and grateful for the chance to experience her writing again, this time in the form of her memoir, which draws from her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. Abuse in queer relationships is often downplayed or overlooked entirely. Yet Machado’s heart-wrenching recollection lays it all out for the reader, while also tacking on her characteristic wit and humor.

Finding Hemingway by Ken Dortzbach (Fiction, Rom-Com)

This rom-com set in Spain is exactly what you need to escape to Europe from the comfort of your own home. In a magical-realist twist, Ken Dortzbach sends his protagonist — highly talented lawyer, Callie McGraw — on a whirlwind adventure after she receives a mysterious phone call from Ernest Hemingway. This endearing tale of friendship, experiencing new cultures, and finding oneself is one you’ll want to loan to your best friend after reading.

The Way You Burn by Christine Meade (Fiction)

If the main characters from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park had met in their 20s, it might look something like this debut new adult novel. A gorgeously well-written tale that brings back vivid memories of my childhood in New Hampshire, this book is told from the point of view of David as he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with a woman named Hope. Also a tale of family secrets, this book has a brightly burning emphasis on how gender impacts our lives. 

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters (Young Adult, releasing July 14)

I swear when you hear what this book is about, you’ll be ready to bump this up to the top spot on your summer TBR. A young adult novel with LGBTQ representation, this eerie read follows Shady Grove, who has the unusual ability to call ghosts using a fiddle. Like a true Southern Gothic tale, it’s evocative and atmospheric with a strong focus on family history and secrets. Do yourself a favor and pre-order this baby like no tomorrow.

Lana Allen, Executive Administrator

Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish (Literary Nonfiction)

This unique book is a beautiful and insightful ode to biology and the joy of learning. Parrish tackles concepts relating to biology and agriculture while sharing his personal experiences with religion, battling illness and more, proving not only that science is relevant to daily life, but that it profoundly impacts all of our lives.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Nonfiction)

I’m a big fan of historian and journalist Rutger Bregman and I can’t wait to dig into his latest work! Bregman makes the case that our greatest asset as a species is our capacity for kindness and cooperation.  In these trying times, his hopeful message could not be more timely! 

Hannah Robertson, Publicist 

The Moon Always Rising by Alice C. Early (Fiction)

I was immediately drawn into Alice C. Early’s The Moon Always Rising. Her descriptions and character development are both incredibly lush, and, even though I didn’t actually take a vacation, the way she describes the little island of Nevis made me feel like I had. This story is full of heartbreak but also hope, and that’s the most important thing. Her ethereal elements and the setting make this the perfect summer or beach read, but I’ll be recommending it all year long!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Literary Fiction)

This book is my white whale. Years ago when I worked in a bookstore, a customer with eerily similar reading tastes as me recommended this title, and ever since this book has been sitting on my nightstand waiting to be picked up. I’ve tried a few times but it was never the right time. With the current situation, I’ve been leaning more on fantasy and magic to take me away, but recently I’ve been drawn to its story and it’s currently at the top of my TBR list for this summer. Don’t worry, I’ll be reading it with tissues at the ready.

What to expect leading up to your book launch

The day a book launches is one of the most exciting of an author’s career, but the weeks leading up to it can be nerve-wracking. Knowing what to expect can help give you a sense of calm as you move into “launch month.”

I like to describe the publicity leading up to your publication date like a snowball: it starts out rather small and moves slowly, but as you get closer, momentum and size build up.

First, many readers prefer to wait until launch day or launch week to cross-post reviews (Amazon actually doesn’t allow reviews to post before then, although other sites do). This burst of reviews in a short period of time can be beneficial; it’s similar to advertising, and the sudden, frequent exposure to the book’s cover and title can lead to more orders!

Second, local media publications in your area are more likely to post a review or blurb about the book near the launch date, in order to create a more timely hook for their newscycle.

So how can you help build the momentum?

Check in with your network of family and friends around this time to ask them to help spread the word about your book. They can do this through Goodreads reviews, social media outreach, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. Many of your supporters will want to help you during this time, but they might need you to tell them how.

Post regularly on social media. Prior to launch, you may have been posting about your book on social media less frequently in order to not overwhelm your followers. However, the weeks leading up to your launch is the time to really use those platforms to display your excitement and share this part of your journey! You should also use social media to share any reviews, and to thank the people who wrote them.

Make sure your website is fully updated and running smoothly. As more people hear about your book, your website is likely to have more visits. Make sure buy links (including IndieBound) are displayed prominently to give you the best chance at getting those orders! If you have a reader newsletter, make sure that you have a system in place to capture email addresses of anyone who wants to subscribe.

Be savvy about making your book launch event a success. Encourage your contacts in the area to come, and to spread the word about the event to their networks as well. Stores appreciate when events gather a crowd, and it gives you an opportunity to spread your message beyond your circle. Ask the store what format usually works best for them, whether it’s a short reading, a Q&A, a conversation, etc.

Bring bookmarks and extra pens for signing, and a notepad to take down any email addresses for contacts you may make. Plus some water and mints–you’ll be doing a lot of talking!

In the wake of COVID-19, many stores are offering virtual events instead of in-person events, which is a great option to reach a wider audience beyond where you can travel! Even if an event is virtual, we still recommend being strategic about when, where, and with whom you set up events: you want to make sure you can draw an audience, so that it is a good investment for you and the bookstore.

If the bookstore doesn’t set up a Facebook event for your launch, you should set one up yourself! It’s a great way to let a wide audience know about your launch, and you can include a lot of information in one place.

And most of all, remember to enjoy yourself! This is a special time, and at the end of the day, nothing can diminish your hard work, creativity, and the amazing accomplishment of releasing your own book!

What can authors do to make the most of their time stuck at home?

We at Books Forward know how important this time is for our authors and readers alike. People are going back to basics and reading more than ever (let’s take that good news where we can!).  Sitting at home, readers are wondering “What can I read today?” while Authors are wondering “How can these readers get a copy of my book?” We are here to be that clotheslines between the two! Grab your pegs and pulley that fresh book into their (hopefully) clean hands with a few of these easy tips!

Audience 

Start with your reader –  Who  are they?! And find them! 

  1. Who is your audience? What do they look like? What stores do they shop at? How old are they? Are they married, single,  young, old…  You get the point! Narrow down that audience as best as you can and go after that using hashtags and similar accounts.
  2. Comparable authors – This is a trick that can help you not only find your audience, but find out what works best for that author, which in turn could work well for you! What content are they posting? Where do they get the most engagement? Follow some of their audience and engage. 

Photos

We live in a very visual society – which *err* doesn’t really help us wordsmiths –  but if a visual photo is going to give them incentive to read your caption or better yet your book then we have to think about the immediate bait. With some extra free time at home, why not try to snap a few good photos for content? If a photo is going to get your readers hooked, then let’s reel them in.

Tips for photos:

  • Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! In this day and age, most smart phones carry a quality camera. However, to get the best quality of the camera, you need to take pictures in natural lighting. Move your camera around different angles to see how the light affects your photo. Shoot outside if that helps (*Insiders Tip*  A photographer’s favorite day, is overcast – not too bright and not  too gloomy)
  • Editing Apps: You can download free editing apps such as ColorStory, Afterlight and VSCO but to avoid being overly complicated, most phones have an editing option right in the photo. 
  • Editing Tips:
    • Lightning: Don’t brighten it too much, but adding a little extra can make your photo look extra professional!
    • Crop: Don’t be shy to take a photo as is and use the crop tool to clean it up!
  • Content: Not every photo has to be a perfect photo, people want to see the real you so feel free to share a recipe here and there, your writing setup, your morning coffee routine,, your family – anything that may pull readers in to who you are and how you write. Inspire them!

Easy Photo Examples:

1- Flat Lay: Greenery, or flowers can help bring color to your photo! Place your book on a stool, a chair or table – add greenery around it and voila!

2- Add in textures and colors that you have lying around the house! Where’s your reading spot? Maybe your writing desk? A fun angle: Hold out your book  below using one hand, and snapping the photo with your other:)

3- Use different covers and mediums of how you can listen or read your book!

4- Furry Friends are welcome! People love pets – sneak in those hashtags of your dog’s breed and find new followers that love books &  pets too!

5- Bookstacks – Share with your readers, what you’re reading or what inspires you! Sharing your name and associating with other authors always gives good perception. Tag them and see if they repost it!

6- Don’t be too shy to get in the shot! Set up a timer or have a friend/family member to take a picture of you writing or reading. Get that book plug in there too  by having it somewhere in the frame;)!

Instagram LIVE

This is a great new tool for creatives. Although, it may seem terrifying to go live – It’s a great way to  connect! *just remember to turn on AND off the camera*

Here are a few ways you can use this tool:

1- Pair up with another author! They can be in the Books Forward family or a fellow author you know. Schedule a time, share it with your fans on both socials and choose to ask each  other questions about the writing process, or any chapters in your book etc. You  can have a theme or it can just be a quick happy hour chat!

2- The new donation button – This tool is a great way to get readers to buy  your book on the spot. OR, you  can use this tool to pick a charity and raise money during your Live. Team up and Tag!

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-adds-live-donations-feature-for-fundraising-via-instagram-live/576951/ 

Facebook LIVE

Again, another great tool to reach out to people on that platform! You can do a  reading hour, where you read and discuss a section of your book, throw a launch party, cook your favorite meal- anything that helps create content, tags other accounts and promotes your book at the same time is a good recipe!

Example:

1 –  Authors, David & Julie Bulitt LIVE making their favorite drinks in the kitchen!

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/ 

2- Author Katie Burke, jumped on a Zoom call with local bookshop The Booksmith and a few kids from her book “Urban Playground;  What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco.”

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/  

REVIEWS

Don’t be shy to reach out to  Instagram, Facebook or any book reviewers and offer a copy of your book in exchange for a post! Now, on Amazon you can send an ebook as a gift, super easy and practical for social distancing! 

All in all, social media is a great tool but you have to be patient with it. The more time you spend engaging, creating content and connecting with people you will start to see your numbers grow – Remember, consistency is key! It’s a clothesline, where you need to hang each item up one by one –  give it time. Unfortunately, social media is not an automatic dryer. *welp*

Book recommendations for every dad this Father’s Day

We’re the kind of people who buy books for every occasion, and Father’s Day is no exception. We’ve compiled a list of book recommendations based on the type of dad you have in case you aren’t sure where to start looking!

  1. For the dad who loves police procedurals: Missions by Marc McGuire, Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  2. For the dad who likes to be kept on his toes: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
  3. For the dad who is fascinated by cults: Sins of the Mother by August Norman, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
  4. For the dad who has a great relationship with his daughter: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland
  5. For the dad who likes to read with his kids: Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss, Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  6. For the dad who enjoys being out in nature: The Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish, H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  7. For the dad who does NOT enjoy being out in nature: The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman by John Driver, The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
  8. For the sports-obsessed dad: The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  9. For dads who are history buffs: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Soldiers of Freedom by Samuel Marquis
  10. For the dad who loves a good revenge plot: The Unrepentant, E.A. Aymar, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson